It’s been a while since I shared something on this site (I’ve been studying for the past month for two qualifying exams, and that consumed all my time). Here I share an excellent article that introduced me to the idea of the “mathematical elite” as a real, socially relevant, and powerful (politically and otherwise) group.
While you’re there, check out the work of Cathy O’Neil (mathbabe). I ready Weapons of Math Destruction in a day during the spring and found it eye-opening and enthralling. I think anyone who works in quantitatively intense subjects should read that book.
This is a guest post by Michael J. Barany, a postdoc in History at Dartmouth.
One year ago, I wrote a post for the Scientific American Guest Blog arguing against the widespread truism that mathematics is everywhere. The post laid out the history of mathematics as a special and exclusive kind of knowledge wielded by privileged elites. I claimed that the idea that math is everywhere not only gets the history wrong, but also misrepresents how mathematics matters most in most people’s lives, and may be a misguided premise on which to build a more inclusive and responsible discipline. If we start by recognizing the bias and exclusion that affect who gets to use advanced mathematics to intervene in the world, we might get better at responding to those biases while empowering the vast majority in the mathematical non-elite to hold the mathematical elite accountable for the great power
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